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Chapter 6

PSYC 251 Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Face Perception, Three Steps, Moodle

Course Code
PSYC 251
Stanka A Fitneva

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Chapter 6
Symbols are what set humans apart from other species
Symbols: Systems for representing our thoughts, feelings and knowledge and for
communicating them to other people, include print, language, pictures, models,
Language Development
By the age of 5, most children have mastered the basic structure of their native
Although vocabulary and powers of expression are less sophisticated than adults,
their sentences are as grammatically correct as a college student
Language use requires comprehension and production
Comprehension: Understanding what others say (or sign or write)
Production: Actually speaking (or singing or writing)
Children’s ability to understand precedes their ability to produce
The Components of Language
All languages have generativity
Generativity: Through the use of an infinite set of words/morphemes we can put
together an infinite number of sentences and express an infinite number of ideas
- When learning a new language you have to deal with this complexity
Phonemes: Elementary units of meaningful sound used to produce languages
Ex: Rake and lake differ by only one phoneme but the words have different
meanings to English speakers
- Different languages have different sets of phonemes
- Phonemes that distinguish meaning in any one language overlap but also differ
from other languages (in Japanese, r and l are a single phoneme and do not carry
different meanings)
First step in children’s language learning is phonological development—the
acquisition of knowledge about the sound system of knowledge, the mastery of
the sound system of their language, this is important so that they recognize and
understand phonemes
Morphemes: Smallest units of meaning in language, alone or in combination
make up words
Second step in language acquisition is semantic development—the learning of the
system for expressing meaning in a language, including word learning , the
learning system for expressing meaning in language
Syntax: Rules in language that specify how words from different categories
(nous, verbs..etc) can be combined
Third component in language acquisition is syntactic development—learning how
words and morphemes are combined
Fourth component in language acquisition is pragmatic development –
understanding of context, emotional tone…etc.

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Metalinguisitc Knowledge: Knowledge about language and its properties, adults
have this and children do not, when you hear people speaking a language you do
not understand, you still know it is a language
Leaning language involves phonological, semantic, syntactic and pragmatic
development as well as metalinguistic knowledge
What is Required for Language?
A single human, isolated could never learn a language, need to hear language for
A Human Brain
Language is a species-specific behaviour, only humans acquire language in the
normal course of development
Language is also species-universal, learning is achieved by typically all infants
across the globe
Nonhuman primates can be trained to use complex communicative systems, but
with limited success
Washoe (chimp) and Koko (gorilla) became famous for communicating using
manual signs
In all animals, even the most basic linguistic achievements come only after a great
deal of concentrated human effort, while human children master the rudiments of
their language with little teaching
Only the human brain acquires a communicative system with the complexity,
structure and gernativity of language
Brain Language Relations
Language processing involves functional localization, there are hemispheric
differences in language functioning
Hemispheric differences in language functioning (for people that are right handed,
language is primarily represented on the left hemisphere)
Left-hemisphere specialization can be seen as early as newborns, left hemisphere
predominantly processes speech from birth
Critical Period for Language Development
Critical Period for Language: The time during which language develops readily
and after which (sometime between age 5 and puberty) language acquisition is
much more difficult and ultimately less successful)
Some children barely develop language after being deprived of early linguistic
Most famous case was Genie who was kept locked alone in her room, no one
spoke to her and when her father brought her food he growled at her like an
- When Genie was found, she was stunted physically, motorically and emotionally
- Language development never reached higher than that of a toddler
Adults (well beyond critical period) are more likely to suffer permanent language
impairment from brain damage than children, most likely because other areas of
the young brain are able to take over language functions

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Adults that learned a second language after puberty use different neural
mechanisms to process that language
Neural circuitry supporting language learning operates differently and better
during the early years
Newport and Johnson study tested the English proficiency of Chinese and Korean
immigrants to the US who had begun learning English either as children or adults
- Knowledge of key aspects of English grammar was related to the age at which
they began learning English
People who acquired ASL as a first language when they were children became
more proficient signers
A Human Environment
Children must be exposed to other people using language
Infant’s auditory preferences are fine-tuned through experience with human
Infant-Directed Speech (IDS)
Infant-Directed Speech (IDS): Distinctive mode of speech that adults adopt
when talking to babies and very young children
Adopted when talking to infants, even young children adopt it to talk to infants
Speech is suffused with affection, exaggeration (speech is slower and voice is
higher pitched), vowels are clearer, exaggerated facial expressions
Infants exhibit appropriate facial emotion when listening to these pitch patterns,
even when the language is unfamiliar
IDS aids in language development, draws attention to the speech itself, learn and
recognize words better
The Process of Language Acquisition
Speech Perception
Language learning starts in the womb as infants develop a preference for their
mother’s voice
Prosody: Characteristic rhythm, temp, cadence, melody, intonational patterns
with which a language is spoken, reason why languages sound so different from
each other
Categorical Perception of Speech Sounds
Categorical Perception: Perception of speech sounds as belonging to discrete
categories, difference is due to voice onset time
Voice onset Time: Length of time between when air passes through the lips and
when the vocal cords start vibrating, shorter for /b/ than /p/
Perception of a continuum as two categories is useful because it allows one to pay
attention to sound differences that are meaningful in one’s native language
Young infants make more distinctions in categories than adults do
Adults do not perceive differences in speech sounds that are not important to their
native language, difficult for adults to become fluent in a second language
Being born able to distinguish speech sounds is helpful to infants because it
primes them to start learning the world’s languages that they hear around them
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